For many people in our area, the first fall frost of the season usually means that it is time to include collards with our fall meals. There is something about that first frost that people say makes collards taste so good.
Collard greens have long been a staple vegetable in southern cuisine. Collard greens date back to prehistoric times and are one of the oldest members of the cabbage family. Historians are unsure of the exact origin of collard greens. The conclusion is that it was growing wild in Asia Minor, now Turkey, as well as in Greece along the Mediterranean long before recorded history. The Greeks and Romans grew collards in domestic gardens over 2,000 years ago.
North Carolina ranks third in the production of collards (2001), representing 14.5% of U.S. production. Georgia ranks first and South Carolina ranks second in collard production. A total of 2,800 acres of collards were planted in North Carolina in 2001. The leading leafy green (collards, kale, turnip and mustard greens) producing counties in North Carolina include many of our coastal plain counties such as Sampson, Duplin, Cumberland, Pitt, Wilson, Lenoir, Greene and Wayne Counties.
Collard greens are a form of cabbage, in the mustard family. The mustard family also includes vegetables such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kale, cauliflower, radishes, rutabaga and turnips. The name “collard” comes from the word “colewort” (the wild cabbage plant).
Collards are a cool season vegetable that is planted in the spring and fall seasons. Flowers of collard greens are also edible. Once the plant starts to bloom, it ceases production of new leaves and transports all valuable nutrients from the leaves toward the flowers and seed. Blooming decreases the quality of leaves.
Collard greens are an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, managanese, vitamin C, dietary fiber and calcium. These plants are also a very good source of vitamin E, vitamin B1, iron and omega-3 fatty acids.
To celebrate the collard season, the Farm Credit Farmers Market will be holding a Collard Day on Friday. We will be having a collard recipe contest for those who have a delicious recipe featuring collards that is blue ribbon worthy! The contest is open to all ages.
Entries will be received from 1 to 1:30 p.m. The recipe must include at least 1 cup of collards. Contestants must be present during the contest and may enter more than one recipe. The recipe must be homemade, prepared at home and presented ready to serve three to four judges. Recipes must be presented with the entry since the first place winning recipe will be published in local media outlets.
Along with a collard recipe contest, there will also be a food demonstration by Michelle Estrada, Wayne County Extension Family & Consumer Science agent to give ideas for a new recipe featuring collards to try along with getting to sample the featured recipe.
Be sure to purchase local collards at the farmers market and celebrate the harvest season by attending Collard Day at the Farm Credit Farmers Market on Friday.
Jessica Strickland is an agriculture extension agent specializing in horticulture for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County.
Upcoming Wayne County Extension Gardening Programs